The Silly Voice of Fordham Lincoln Center

The Observer

The Silly Voice of Fordham Lincoln Center

The Observer

The Silly Voice of Fordham Lincoln Center

The Observer

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April 1, 2024
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Fordham ‘Elevates’ Chief Diversity Officer Role to Vice President Position

Tetlow announced that a committee to search and evaluate candidates for the university’s first vice president for equity and inclusion, which was previously an associate position
Dean+of+Gabelli+School+of+Business+Lerzan+Aksoy+leads+the+search+committee+for+the+inaugural+position.
COURTESY OF LERAN AKSOY
Dean of Gabelli School of Business Lerzan Aksoy leads the search committee for the inaugural position.

The university has shifted the role of the chief diversity officer from an associate vice president position to a vice president position, assuming the title of vice president for equity and inclusion and becoming a member of the president’s cabinet. The decision was communicated in a university-wide email sent on March 4 which was co-signed by University President Tania Tetlow and Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Dennis C. Jacobs. 

The position designates additional responsibilities involving diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) across Fordham’s divisions, schools, colleges and units, while serving as a cabinet advisor to the president. 

In the email, Tetlow and Jacobs expressed the necessity of the role following a review of past work that had prioritized DEI. 

“This decision underscores the importance we place on DEI as fundamental to our Catholic and Jesuit mission and critical to our success as a university,” Tetlow and Jacobs said. “We must ensure that our policies, programs, and practices are equitable and inclusive and that we cultivate an environment where every member of our community can thrive.”

The university has established a search committee, led by Lerzan Aksoy, dean of the Gabelli School of Business, to fill the role of vice president for equity and inclusion.

In addition to being an active member of the president’s cabinet, the vice president for equity and inclusion will be tasked with sitting on the council of deans and the president’s advisory council, thereby assuming a larger role in university-wide decision-making processes reflecting DEI.

Added responsibilities to this role will also include supervision over Fordham’s Higher Education Opportunity Program, College Science and Technology Entry Program (CSTEP), Science and Technology Entry Program (STEP), and Talent Search Program.

According to Jacobs, the position will set strategic initiatives outlining DEI while also embracing Catholic and Jesuit values. 

“At this point in Fordham’s history, we wanted to position this elevated role as a vital member of Fordham’s senior leadership team — an expert, strategic advisor, and change agent who helps the University achieve its Jesuit ideals,” Jacobs said.

The university has established a search committee, led by Lerzan Aksoy, dean of the Gabelli School of Business, to fill the role of vice president for equity and inclusion, following Fordham’s inaugural Chief Diversity Officer Rafael Zapata stepping down in September 2023 to focus on “an aging family member.”

The committee will conduct a national search to identify and assess incoming candidates by the end of May. They are composed of 12 members, each of which span from various backgrounds and  departments such as STEP/CSTEP Programs, the Black Law Student Association (BLSA), Student Affairs for Diversity and Inclusion, Center for Community Engaged Learning, and more.

As chair of the search committee, Aksoy is tasked with ensuring members have the necessary information to evaluate the candidates, lead listening sessions, convene interviews and meetings, and ensure feedback and choices of candidates are conveyed fully to the provost and president.

“The president and provost selected committee members to represent the full range of stakeholders across the University, with an eye to committee members who were best positioned to understand how the candidates measure up to the University’s requirements and needs, to ultimately help us deliver upon our mission,” she said. 

“This decision underscores the importance we place on DEI as fundamental to our Catholic and Jesuit mission and critical to our success as a university.”University President Tania Tetlow and Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Dennis C. Jacobs

According to Aksoy, the vice president for equity and inclusion will benefit Fordham’s student body by ensuring a sense of belonging, and allowing the university to make better use of its resources.  

Raissa Ebeh, Fordham Law School 25 and president of the BLSA, shared that she is excited to be a member of the search committee. Ebeh added that she believes the position is a testament to Fordham’s commitment to DEI.

“It makes me proud in being a Fordham law student and Black woman to see our university solidifying its commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, especially through establishing a cabinet position to our president,” she said.

Ebeh, alongside Aksoy and the committee, encourages students, staff and faculty to assist her through this necessary process, as they will be hosting several listening sessions in March.

An administrator and staff listening session was hosted on March 7 at 4 p.m. and a graduate and undergraduate student listening session was hosted on the following day on March 8 at 1 p.m.. The committee has also hosted the third session of the series, a faculty listening session, on March 12 at 4 p.m..

“We can only bring so much as a committee to the interview process for a vice president, so it will be great to hear from our community rather than reviewing resumes,” Ebeh said.

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About the Contributor
GABRIELLA GUTIERREZ, Assistant News Editor
Gabriella Gutierrez (she/her), FCLC ’26, is an assistant news editor at The Observer. She is majoring in political science on the pre-law track with an interest in journalism. She enjoys being on the Jersey Shore, losing her voice at Yankees games and blasting ABBA.

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